Internet access in Ukraine has come under strain as the Russian offensive has stressed Ukraine’s resources. Such a situation made the country’s leadership request tech-billionaire Elon Musk to deploy his satellite internet service Starlink in the country.
The Starlink user terminals began arriving in the country earlier this week. These terminals are like small antennas that catch the internet being beamed to Earth from Elon Musk’s constellation of satellites.
While this would ease the pressure on internet availability in Ukraine, a new concern has emerged – how to keep these satellite-based internet devices running? While these devices bypass the conventional Earth-based infrastructure to access the internet, they still need power to run and the ongoing fighting has put power supply at risk.
Earlier on Friday, Russian forces seized control of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia, which generates almost a quarter of all of Ukraine’s electricity.
Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov appealed to the world on Twitter to provide his country with generators, so Starlink’s devices and other critical services stay operational.
However, Elon Musk suggested an alternative to generators – solar panels and batteries.
Solar panels with battery packs are better than generators, as no heat signature or smoke is produced and they don’t run out of fuel as well, said Musk in a reply to Fedorov.
Moreover, Musk is updating Starlink’s software such that devices can run on minimal power.
Updating software to reduce peak power consumption, so Starlink can be powered from car cigarette lighter.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 3, 2022
Mobile roaming enabled, so phased array antenna can maintain signal while on moving vehicle.
While Starlink might come as a blessing to Ukrainians, it is not without its complications, which Musk himself addressed. He said there is a high probability of Starlink terminals being targeted by the Russians.
Offering tips on Twitter, Musk wrote, “Turn on Starlink only when needed and place the antenna as far away from people as possible. Place light camouflage over the antenna to avoid visual detection.”